How many of you dream about winning the lottery?
This is a question I often ask parents and teachers. And, of course, all hands are usually raised because, come on, who wouldn’t want to get their hands on all that dough, right?
But then I follow up the question with another: How many of you actually buy the ticket? A good two-thirds of hands go down, some more slowly than others. This is one of the ways I transition to my second rule of happiness, a rule that requires us to understand the difference between fantasy and reality. It’s about dreams. More importantly, as Rudyard Kipling wrote, it’s about not making them your master.
The Second Rule To Happiness: Always Work Hard To Follow Your Dreams
I know people who are still waiting for their BIG BREAK, their star to fall or their chance to really shine. And while some people are born under a lucky star, the vast majority of successful and accomplished people worked very hard to get to where they are. These people endured sleepless nights, time spent away from family, multiple jobs to work to make ends meet and daily sacrifices to make just so that they could follow their dreams.
As a writer, I always tell kids that the art of writing is actually re-writing. I let them know that they, too, are writers, because the steps in the Writer’s Workshop that they are learning in class are the very same steps I and many other writers out there are incorporating into our professional lives. There are outlines to make, thinking maps to create out of brainstorm sessions, drafts to write and share with our peers.
Not all students want to be writers when they go up; every dream is as unique as they are. I’ve heard it all, from doctors and lawyers to zookeepers and professional athletes. One kid wanted to work with clay (which I thought was totally cool). No matter what that dream might be – it’s okay if they don’t know what that dream is yet, either – we can’t just sit there and wait for that dream to come true. Following our dreams means working hard for them, failing but still getting up off of the mat to keep trying.
When we work hard for the dream, we’re essentially buying the lottery ticket, only with sweat equity and perseverance.
I let the kids know how important it is to understand the difference between the fantasy and the reality. The fantasy is that unicorn, the flying pig, watching a movie in a theater without someone’s cell phone ringing. I tell them that there are people out there, people much older than they are, that are still waiting… and waiting. Meanwhile, others are working hard at their craft, they’re learning from mistakes, they’re getting better – better than good.
That’s actually a terrific segue way to the first rule we learned last week: Be better than good. After all, it’s pretty tough to apply the second rule without incorporating the first rule into our daily lives somehow.
So when you think about it, waiting for your dream to come true is like wishing for all of that lottery moolah; not working for that dream is the equivalent to not buying the ticket. It’s all a part of three simple rules for being happy.
Who doesn’t want to be happy, right?
Phillip D. Cortez is the author of three children’s books. A fourth, Summer Son, will be published by Floricanto Press in 2016.